, Volume 133, Issue 1, pp 21–41 | Cite as

Immunohistochemical and ultrastructural analysis of the muscular and nervous systems in the interstitial polychaete Polygordius appendiculatus (Annelida)

  • Christine Lehmacher
  • Dieter Fiege
  • Günter PurschkeEmail author
Original Paper


The systematic position of Polygordiidae is still under debate. They have been assigned to various positions among the polychaetes. Recent molecular analyses indicate that they might well be part of a basal radiation in Annelida, suggesting that certain morphological characters could represent primitive character traits adopted from the annelid stem species. To test this hypothesis, an investigation of the muscular and nervous systems by means of immunological staining and confocal laser scanning microscopy and transmission electron microscopy was conducted. With the exception of the brain, the nervous system is entirely basiepidermal and consists of the brain, the esophageal connectives, the subesophageal region, the ventral nerve cord and several smaller longitudinal nerves. These are connected by a considerable number of ring nerves in each segment. The ventral nerve cord is made up of closely apposed longitudinal neurite bundles, a median and two larger lateral ones. Since distinct ganglia are lacking, it represents a medullary cord. The muscular system mainly consists of longitudinal fibers, regularly distributed oblique muscles and strong septa. The longitudinal fibers form a right and a left unit separated along the dorsal midline, each divided into a dorsal and ventral part by the oblique muscles. Anteriorly, the longitudinal musculature passes the brain and terminates in the prostomium. There is no musculature in the palps. In contrast to earlier observations, regularly arranged minute circular muscle fibers are present. Very likely, a basiepithelial and non-ganglionic organization of the ventral nerve cord as well as an orthogonal nervous system represent plesiomorphic characters. The same applies for the predominance of longitudinal muscle fibers.


Polygordius appendiculatus cLSM TEM Phylogeny Evolution Annelid ground pattern Musculature Nervous system 



A grant from the German Science Foundation (DFG; Grant Number FI 433/10-1) supporting this study is gratefully acknowledged. We express our thanks to Dr. Patricia Ramey-Balci and the staff of the Biologische Anstalt Helgoland and the Station Biologique de Roscoff for various kinds of help. We thank Professor Achim Paululat, Osnabrück, for continuous support and discussions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine Lehmacher
    • 1
    • 2
  • Dieter Fiege
    • 2
  • Günter Purschke
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Biology, ZoologyUniversity of OsnabrückOsnabrückGermany
  2. 2.Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseum Senckenberg Frankfurt, Sektion Marine Evertebraten IIFrankfurt/MainGermany

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